Ilance: A land ruled over bt a brave and wise Queen, and in which two factions, the Aristocrats and the Knights, have for generations vied for power…
Tonight, two prodigies, one from each faction, will do battle in ‘The Adjuvant Trial’, a ritual held since the founding of the nation and that decides which faction will hold military and political authority, and protect the Queen, the living symbol of the realm.
The fate of the nation is at stake as these two girls set aside their childhood friendship and undergo a trial in which there can be only one victor.
What We Think
Though it plays somewhat like Devil May Cry, Croixleur‘s clunky, repetitive gameplay will have you feeling more like Sisyphus than Dante.
Trial and Error
The Story Mode of Croixleur introduces Lucrezia Visconti (Luc, for short) a young girl about the embark on the Adjuvant Trial. To pass this most hallowed of tests, She must ascend the Tower of Neit, a magical construct that houses a horde of wicked creatures.
To complicate things, Princess Francesca Storaro, a former childhood friend and the prize student from a rival school, is racing with Luc to complete the trial first. The first student to complete the test will go on to become a Sword Sorceress.
Once the trial begins, Luc is transported to a floor within the tower, and monsters begin to appear. To advance, all creatures must be destroyed, at which point a portal to the next stage is opened. Each fifth stage takes place in the Ring of Nirvana, and will involve defeating a mini-boss alongside the throng of normal enemies. Ultimately, a decisive battle with a supreme summoned monster awaits the first combatant to reach the tower’s final chamber.
A fifteen minute counter begins one the first stage, and counts down whenever enemies are on screen. There are various ways Luc’s tale can end, and it hinges on how much time is left on the clock at the end of the trial.
As an action arcade-style game, I found a controller to be the most suitable way to play Croixleur. Though by default, the game maps out all commands to the keyboard, don’t even bother trying to play this game without the assistance of a gamepad unless you are sitting on some secret cure for carpal tunnel syndrome.
Hitting the attack button three times will allow Luc to make a three-swing combo, regardless of whether or not her swipes make contact. The dash feature will allow her to step out of the way of an attack quickly, or to charge quickly towards her next target. To clear levels in as little time as possible, Luc must chain together her attacks using the dash or jump functions. This also keeps time-draining breaks in the action to a minimum. Using too many consecutive MP draining techniques can leave Luc stranded in a pinch so caution is required when belting out magic-heavy combos.
New weapons will be unlocked as the player completes milestones within the game, and can be used at the start of the next play-through. The use of these can be assigned to one of the face buttons at the beginning of any game mode, and is activated by holding L1 and then hitting the desired button. Each allows Luc to perform a graphically over-the-top special attack at the cost of some magic points.
What Stale Hell Is This?
There is very little variety in the types of enemies in the game. There are goblins, magic goblins, flying eyeball creatures, and two types of mini boss. Any other encountered critters fit into these categories, and only differ in hue and the number of hits it takes to dispatch them. Playing a game of Endless Mode means an endless barrage of goblins interspersed with the odd mini boss.
The scenery fares no better, as each level takes place in the same ceremonial room. The Ring of Nirvana stages are only slightly different, and are followed by the room that preceded it, if colored slightly differently. The only real thing to differentiate the rooms is the appearance order of the mobs, and given the range of that homogenous ilk, players will also be fighting a feeling of déjà vu.
Considering how wildly different the ten unlockable weapons appear, it is unfortunate that their use doesn’t alter the attack animations at all. Regardless of the sword in hand, the same three-attack combo is displayed. Though the game is at most fifteen minutes long, this endless combo of mash-and-dash gets ancient quickly. Not assigning new moves to new weapons feels like a missed opportunity.
Devil May Cry Foul
Fairly frequently, the controller will sometimes fail to respond, leaving Luc standing perfectly still for up to a couple of seconds. These moments are annoying in earlier levels, and flat-out game killing in later stages when staying alive requires a steady rhythm of strike and dash.
As the action progresses, Luc will level up. Though it happens semi-frequently, it isn’t clear why this happens as there is nothing on screen indicating when the next level is due to be reached. It also isn’t apparent what these supposed higher levels affect performance-wise; Luc does not appear to get any stronger as a result of passing these supposed milestones. It’s possible that these tie into the game’s stash of unlockable weapons, but it isn’t made clear to the player one way or the next.
Failing the test (get used to it) brings the player to a screen asking if he wants to retry. Other than having the ability to select different weapons, “retry” is the same as “new game”. The same opening narrative plays and there is no “skip movie” feature to be found. Though the player can hold down buttons and cycle through them all quickly, watching Luc and Fran banter about Luc’s creepy fascination with memories of the two young girls bathing together (I’m not making it up) every time you either start a game or retry makes for an awkward presentation.
While there is some decent content found in Croixleur, it gets lost in poor design choices. The fifteen minute maximum play time for story mode is a double edged sword: On the plus side, it makes for a story mode that can be dropped into without demanding a great deal of time. However, as the enemy layout is the same each time, it also means the player will have to slog through the same useless goblin drones in the beginning stages each time the game begins anew. The long intro sequence that precedes the initial action each time is off-putting even on the first attempt, and forces a silly bi-curious school girl dynamic on a game that doesn’t call for it.
Playing the game successfully will almost certainly require mastering the chain system, but this is mentioned briefly in passing during the tutorial, and promptly dropped. There is no chain tracker during story mode (though one exists in Endless Mode), nor are there enhanced attacks for maintaining a chain. These are just a couple of ideas that come to mind that would make maintaining a chain of attacks more immediately enjoyable.
After several attempted playthroughs, I finally achieved a variation in the story by reaching a later stage under a certain time. Had I not been reviewing the game, I can safely say I would not have subjected myself to the daunting repetitiveness of the game to make this happen. The varied endings are a slim reward for a game that requires such focus on playing through the same quest packed with barely varying enemies time and again. The Time Attack and Endless Mode are more of the same, but with slightly different goals.
Get Croixleur and the demo at the official website